|House with Governor Muhammad Bin Nasser |
On Monday, November 11th, The UT Tyler Honors and GATE programs partnered with Ted W. Walters and Associates to sponsor a public lecture from Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter Karen Elliott House. House discussed her 30 years of writing and reporting on Saudi Arabia, as well as being a diplomatic correspondent, foreign editor and then publisher of The Wall Street Journal. She also discussed her 2012 book, On Saudi Arabia: Its People, Past, Religion, Fault Lines-and Future.
House is a graduate of UT Austin, where she received a bachelors in journalism and was the editor of the university’s newspaper, The Daily Texan. In 1984, she was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in international reporting for her coverage of Middle East while writing for the Wall Street Journal. Specifically, her interviews with Jordan’s King Hussein and the discussion of the Middle East peace plan from the Reagan Administration gained a large amount of international recognition. Following this recognition, she began her research and visits to Saudi Arabia, learning about the political and social structure of the country.
House identifies the three pillars that Saudi Arabia is built on: the Saudi political dynasty, the theology of Wahhabism, and the oil market. She argues that these three historic pillars of Saudi stability are cracking for various reasons.
Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues, which is valued at roughly $43 billion per year for the country, is currently being threatened by peaked production and a massive increase in domestic energy consumption. Domestic subsidies for oil production is currently at 52 cents per gallon of gas, a tremendously high rate for a country that relies on their oil market for about 86% of its annual revenue. The United States was predicted to be the world’s leader in oil production by 2015, creating a scenario for Saudi Arabia where competition for oil dominance is more of an uphill battle than ever.
Wahhabism is a conservative and intolerant form of Islam that is practiced in Saudi Arabia. At one point in the country’s history, there was a supportive Wahhabi Islamic establishment that bestowed legitimacy on the House of Saud (the current royal family in Saudi Arabia). However, the establishment is not fractious and is decreasing in public credibility.
The current royal family is the House of Saud, and they have been in power in Saudi Arabia for the better part of the past 250 years. The family is estimated to have roughly 15,000 members, the most influential of which is Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the King of Saudi Arabia. Recently, the family is in danger of division as they are forced to confront generational succession. This will lead to allegiances being split and the increase of tensions between higher up members of the royal family, generating a large amount of political strife in the country as a whole.
The University of Texas at Tyler is honored to have Mrs. House visit our campus and lecture on her area of expertise. Keep track of the UT Tyler Honors and GATE web pages to check for the Spring Semester colloquium. And if you are interested in learning more about what Mrs. House has been researching for nearly thirty years, check out her book!